That’s how hot it was at 8:45 this morning as I stood with one foot inside of my apartment and the other on the landing, debating whether or not going for a run outside was such a good idea.
Running is a fickle occupation. If you’re looking for consistency, then this is not your sport. For instance, on a Monday, you could run a p.r. on a really difficult running route, and then on a Friday, you can find yourself barely able to get through one mile on the treadmill without feeling like you’re going to keel over. Like anything that requires a decent amount of physical exertion (i.e. exercising), I knew that if I didn’t, in that instance, will myself to fully step out of my apartment and shut the door behind me, that I wouldn’t run at all. I also knew that I would feel horrible about not working out because exercising genuinely makes me feel good!
That being said, I jogged down the three flights of stairs to my car and drove over to Umstead Park. By the time I started my run at 9:03 a.m., the sun was really beating down. At one point during my run, I remember thinking that I might spontaneously combust if I didn’t strictly stick to the shaded areas.
It’s All Downhill From Here!
Even though I was running alone and at a good clip, each step felt like torture. It was one of those runs where you secretly hope that you don’t run into anyone that you know and then you sorta’ kick yourself for having not gotten up earlier to run. Yeah- that was me. And as luck would have it, about fifteen minutes into my run, I saw one of my old college teammates running towards me with another group of young women. Of course, they were running downhill towards me, and I was running uphill, but I still managed to straighten my posture and work up enough leftover energy to smile broadly and yell out a hearty “hey!” as I waved in passing. Then for the next ten minutes as I trudged up the rest of the hill, I wondered what my teammate thought when she passed me:
“Gee, I wonder how long she‘s been running- she sure looked exhausted!”
“Wow, she looked like she was in great shape!”
Time to ‘Fess up…
Few people who have run on a semi-professional level will admit to it, but many of us still carry a lot of pride when we go out for a run. What do I mean by this? Well the example above is one instance of how you never want other people who you’ve run with when you were in your prime to know how bad you are sucking now that you don’t run on the same “level” anymore. I, for one, used to have this huge fear of going for a run at a park and being passed by another runner. I used to think to myself, “I can’t go out there and run by myself- If I get passed by some other runner, I’ll never be able to get over it!”
It seems so silly and quite frankly, downright ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s as if we have a hard time dealing with the fact that we’re simply not on the same competitive level that we used to be when we were in college. Granted, there are some runners who continue to run beyond college and who are even talented enough to be sponsored by a brand. These are the same people who go out and compete in road races, marathons and train with teams of other like-minded individuals. For them, even a “fun run” road race gets turned into a competition where if you’re going to run it, you had better rank among the top five finishers- otherwise, don’t waste your time.
Admittedly, running road races “for fun” is something that I have (and continue) to struggle with. Part of me would love to see where I stand now that I have been away from the world of competitive running for a few years, but at the same time, I also know that I would be devastated if I wasn’t at least where I left off in college. After all, the last thing that I want is for someone to see the results of some random race that I recently ran and be shocked that I ran so poorly. How embarrassing!
If It Was Easy; Everyone Would Do It…
Today’s run was difficult. I’ve only been back in North Carolina for less than a week, having traveled a lot over the past three weeks and missing out on sleeping, etc. Despite this, I still wanted to get out there and run at a high level this morning- all the while knowing in the back of my head that I was setting unrealistic expectations for myself. And when I saw my teammate approaching me from a distance, I thanked God for small blessings. After all, I had just started my run, which meant that I was still relatively fresh, and she was heading in the opposite direction as me, which meant that I didn’t have to suffer being passed by someone I knew (oh, the horror!).
There also comes a time when you’re running alone through trails at a park where you may feel a momentary wave of panic wash over you. It usually comes at a moment when it’s just a little too quiet….when there aren’t any people around and you start to think to yourself of all the possible ways that you could be attacked. Many professional runners, such as Joan Benoit Samuelson, advocate thinking over the worse-case scenario stuff while you’re running because it helps you stay on your toes. The good thing about running by yourself on trails is that you can almost always tell when you’re nearing the end of one because that’s when you start to see more and more people.
Wrapping it Up
11.5 miles later, I made it back to my Jeep having only stopped once (50 minutes into my run) to get a drink of water from the water fountain. The one thing that I really appreciate about running is that it always teaches me something about myself; and I know that this is an area that always has room for improvement!
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. – William Shakespeare